“Total Recall” was a huge hit in 1990 that further cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger’s status as America’s premier action-movie hero and gave audiences a glimpse of how life might look in the year 2084.
It was also, technically, not a very good movie. That statement may fly in the face of fan outrage about the remake of “Total Recall,” which arrives in theaters Friday and has prompted some to wonder why Hollywood tinkered with a film that was just fine the first time.
To those people I say: Go back, see it again, then decide if it’s possible to improve on a movie in which Schwarzenegger drills a man to death while shouting ”Screw you!” The answer may come back yes.
Actually, though, there’s another reason to spend some time with the 1990 “Recall": to see how much of its vision of the future has already come true. It’s not unusual for a sci-fi movie to seem prescient, especially one based on a Philip K. Dick work — in this case, the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” (FYI: A lot of the stuff in “Minority Report” also is actually happening.) But it’s still entertaining to see how the “Total Recall” filmmakers managed to create some gadgets that are already part of the mainstream today. For example:
TV walls: In the 1990 version of 2084, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his duplicitous wife, played by Sharon Stone, watch television via a digital wall. Which is, essentially, the way a lot of Americans watch it now.
Full body scans: Prior to getting on the “Total Recall” equivalent of the subway, the film’s commuters walk through full body scanners to make sure they have no weapons. Which is just ridiculous. In America, how would we ever reach a point where we have to get a complete X-ray before using transporta— uh, never mind.
Visual phone conversations: In “Recall” 1990, some characters engage in videoconferencing. They don’t call it Skyping, but that’s basically what it was.
Tracking a person’s location: There’s a scene in which Schwarzenegger’s pursuers follow him via a portable screen that shows his location on a map, as represented by a little red dot. You know, the way we all find our way around now, using our iPhones. (Man, Schwarzenegger could have saved his enemies so much time if he’d just had the decency to check in on FourSquare.)
Holograms: There’s a flesh-and-blood version of Schwarzenegger in “Total Recall” and a hologram version. Unfortunately, the filmmakers weren’t forward-thinking enough to also feature a hologram version of Tupac Shakur.
JohnnyCabs: Many of the taxis in “Total Recall” were famously driven by robots. Unfortunately, we haven’t innovated enough to create creepy animatronic Chuck E. Cheese characters who can do our driving for us. We haven’t even innovated enough here in D.C. to fully understand how much cab fare should cost.
Getting memories implanted in our brains: The entire premise of ”Total Recall,” both new and old, is based on the notion that a company could implant certain memories in our cerebrums, thereby making them seem like actual experiences. This has not happened yet, at least as far as this writer knows. Although one wonders if all the people who still love the first “Recall” genuinely feel that way, or feel that way because the idea was injected into their brains and don’t realize that none of those opinions are real.